The virtues of the humble soy bean

By • Published: July 22nd, 2011
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Soy products are everywhere these days. Supermarkets carry soy milk, soybeans and soy burgers. The great demand for soy has moved American farmers to produce this traditional Asian crop in massive quantities, making them the world’s most prolific producers of soy.

What’s so wonderful about the humble soybean?

For starters, soy is a terrific source of protein. It’s great for vegans and vegetarians, who don’t get protein from more typical sources such as meat, poultry and eggs.

Soy also contain isoflavones, substances that act similarly to estrogen and are found in certain plants. Some women take isoflavone pills to mitigate the effects of menopause, though experts aren’t sure about their effectiveness or safety.

There’s no questioning soybeans’ high fiber content. It’s well known that adequate fiber intake is important for proper digestive health. Did you know consuming enough fiber also can help you prevent diabetes and manage your weight, blood sugar and cholesterol?

For people whose bodies can’t handle lactose, the main carbohydrate in cow’s milk, soy milk is a tasty substitute. If you’re consuming soy milk in place of cow’s milk, look for fortified versions that will provide the calcium and vitamins your body needs.

But let’s clarify one thing: the name “soy milk” is a misnomer. This liquid isn’t truly milk. Rather, it’s a liquid that’s produced by soaking, grinding and sifting soy beans.

Little ones’ digestive systems can benefit, too, as soy-based formulas provide relief for babies suffering from milk allergies or certain potty problems we won’t name here.

Researchers are investigating a host of other possible health benefits, but you don’t need to wait for the research to add soy to your diet. Who knows, with dozens of tasty soy products on the market, the health benefits could just be the silver lining to your new favorite snack.